Lily Stewart is busy planning the summer Highland Games at her family's Great Smoky Mountain resort. So the last thing she needs is some arrogant, demanding Scotsman -- no matter how sexy -- arriving to film the annual festival. It's bad enough that he's constantly interrupting her days -- but even worse that he's tempting her to rev up her nights with a Highland fling.
Filmmaker Ian MacDougall MacKenzie is actually there to steal back the Brooch of Lorn, which has gone back and forth between the Stewarts and the MacDougalls ever since it was ripped from Robert the Bruce's tartan in 1306. But when Ian realizes Lily has stolen his heart, he wonders whether love can prevail once she discovers he's been deceiving her all along....
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It was dusk -- too late for sunset, too early for stars. Ian MacKenzie had expected at least another hour of daylight, but night was coming fast to the Smoky Mountains. Making matters worse was the storm blowing in from the west. Slate-gray clouds rolled across the rounded mountaintops; thunder rumbled ominously in the distance.
Before being talked into this damn fool scheme, he'd been on his way to Monte Carlo, where he'd planned to spend the next two weeks sailing and romancing supermodels and princesses.
Instead, he'd come to this remote mountain borderland between North Carolina and Tennessee to catch a thief. The plan was to reclaim his family's property, by stealing it back if necessary.
Then, his duty done, his conscience cleansed, he was heading to Monaco to begin making up for six long months of celibacy.
The sky darkened like a black shawl settling over the mountains. The dashboard thermometer revealed that the temperature outside his rental car was plummeting, and ominous drops of rain began spattering the windshield.
"This is insane." Ian had been saying that ever since he'd landed in Washington, D.C., from Edinburgh, by way of London. He'd then climbed aboard a commuter jet at Dulles International Airport to Asheville, North Carolina, where he'd rented a car for this final leg of his journey.
The Hertz rental agent had told him Highland Falls was approximately sixty miles from Asheville. "As the crow flies," she'd said as she handed him back his credit card. "It's a bit longer by road."
That was proving to be a vast understatement.
The wind picked up; the rain began to slant. He hadn't passed another car for at least an hour and it had been nearly that long since he'd seen any of the small cemeteries, with their worn gravestones grown over with rambling honeysuckle and blackberry briars, or the weathered cabins tucked into the protective, fog-shrouded hollows.
Beginning to suspect he'd taken the wrong fork ten miles back, Ian considered turning around. The problem with that idea was that he'd undoubtedly end up getting mired in the mud. Besides, he hadn't come all this way to give up because of a little squall. He was a Scot, accustomed to miserable weather.
Thunder shook the mountain and rumbled from ridge to ridge, and soup-thick fog reflected the yellow beam of his headlights -- which was why Ian didn't see, until it was too late, the storm-swollen creek that had overflowed its banks. Clenching his jaw, he plowed ahead.
His relief on getting through the torrent rushing across the narrow road was short-lived when the engine coughed...then shuddered to a stop.
"Damn." He slammed his fist against the steering wheel. "Damn Duncan MacDougall's black heart."
Ian twisted the key in the ignition.
"And damn the bloody Stewart clan. Every bloody last one of them."
Forcing himself to wait a full thirty seconds -- during which time he also cursed the rock-hard Highland stubbornness that had maintained the Stewart and MacDougall feud for seven hundred years -- he tried again.
Rain streamed down the windshield in blinding sheets as he turned on the dome light and studied the map. If it was at all accurate, he was approximately a mile from his destination.
"Hell -- barely a decent jog."
Giving the car one last chance to redeem itself, Ian tried the ignition again. When the attempt proved futile, he jammed the keys into his jacket pocket, grabbed his duffel bag from the back seat and began marching up the road, cursing into the wind.
"Well, what do you think?"
Lily Stewart glanced up from the uncooperative computer that had already crashed three times tonight, and took in the redhead twirling in a blaze of glitter.
"I don't believe I've seen so many sequins since you dragged me to that Elvis impersonator convention in Memphis." Her aunt's scarlet sweater was studded with red sequins and crystal beads, and the short red leather skirt displayed firm, stocking-clad thighs. "You're certainly showing a lot of leg tonight."
"If you've got it, flaunt it."
Ruby rings blazed, and diamonds flashed as the fifty-something former chorus girl fluffed her cloud of firecracker-bright hair, several shades darker than Lily's strawberry blond. "I'm not tryin' to be subtle, baby doll. Ian MacKenzie is showing up tonight with his video cameras, and you know what I always say: too much -- "
"Is never enough." Lily had heard the motto innumerable times while growing up. Zelda Stewart was part Auntie Mame, part Dolly Parton. She was also the closest thing to a mother Lily, who adored her aunt, had ever known. "I never have understood how you manage to walk in those ice-pick heels."
Lily had been seven years old when she'd broken her ankle falling off her aunt's skyscraper-high gold platform sandals while playing dress-up with her two sisters. That was the day she'd realized she'd never be the glam type.
"Practice, my darling niece, practice." Zelda performed another spin Lily suspected not many supermodels would have been able to pull off on the end of a runway. "So when is this Scotsman who's going to save our collective butts due to arrive?"
"I don't know. He's already late."
Since confirming that his plane had landed at the Asheville airport more than three hours ago, Lily had begun to worry he'd been delayed by the storm. Even worse was the possibility he'd taken a wrong turn and gotten lost. She'd grown up on tales of people who'd disappeared into these mountains, never to be seen again. Wouldn't that start the annual Highland Games off on a lovely note? She could just see the tabloid headlines now: "Oscar-winning documentary director disappears deep in Deliverance country."
"And I don't think he's coming here to save anyone's butt."
Lily couldn't figure out why the filmmaker was gracing Highland Falls with his famous presence and unlike everyone else in her family, she wasn't certain Ian MacKenzie's out-of-the-blue announcement that he was considering documenting the town's Highland Games was a good thing. His work, while technically brilliant, showed a dark and pessimistic view of the world that always left her feeling depressed.
"It's just as the cards predicted," Zelda claimed. "We desperately needed an economic savior, so the gods sent us MacKenzie."
Lily, who didn't share her aunt's faith in the well-worn deck of tarot cards, didn't respond as she booted the computer up again.
"I did a scrying before I came down here." Lily also wasn't certain what her aunt saw when she gazed into her collection of crystal balls gathered from all over the world, but Zelda's predictions had proven correct more often than not. "The past months, the crystals have been filled with thick, dark clouds, but this afternoon they were rising."
"A positive sign." They could certainly use one.
"Absolutely. And there was a bright spot right in the middle, like the sun breaking through, which means an improvement in finances. Ergo, having Ian MacKenzie show us off to the world is bound to bring in more tourist dollars."
"I suppose so." It was certainly what everyone, from her father and Zelda down to Jamie Douglass at the Tartan Market seemed to be counting on. Too many hopes and dreams were being laid on the shoulders of one stranger.
"Did you see the piece Biography did on him last week?" Zelda asked.
"I caught a bit of it."
Liar. She'd been riveted to the screen for the entire hour. Of course, her only interest had been in discovering whatever scraps of information she could about the notoriously reclusive director. She'd barely noticed, and then only in passing, how sexy his butt had looked in those faded jeans with the ripped-out knees, which she doubted had been intended as a fashion statement.
Zelda sighed. "Such a tragic past the poor man's suffered. No wonder he's chosen to document the dark side of life. My first thought, when I saw that clip of him walking in the fog on the moors, was that he'd be a natural to play Heathcliff in a remake of Wuthering Heights. Not only is he gorgeous, in a dangerous, 'gone to the dark side of hell and lived to tell about it' way, that Highland hunk is going to put us on the map."
The thick, towering front door burst open. One look at the very large, wet male silhouetted by a bright flash of lightning revealed that Zelda had at least nailed the dangerous part.
His lean, rangy body, the shock of black hair glistening with raindrops, the strong, firm jaw and broad shoulders and long legs, made Lily think of an ancient warrior wielding a claymore in the midst of battle.
Dressed from head to toe in black, with the storm raging behind him and the wind howling like a banshee, the man definitely lived up to his Dark Prince of Documentaries description.
All those photographs and video clips on Biography hadn't done him justice. Ian MacKenzie's lived-in face was all planes and hollows, decidedly masculine, but starkly beautiful in a way that Lily, who'd spent twenty-nine years plagued by the description of being the perky Stewart sister, found eminently unfair.
Her assessing gaze locked with eyes that were swirling shades of gray, as stormy as a winter sea. As she was unwillingly pulled into those fathomless depths, Lily dearly hoped that the violence depicted in his films wasn't echoed in this scowling Scotsman who didn't remotely look like anyone's savior.
Copyright © 2003 by The Ross Family Trust
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good story but too much sex
it took me over a week to get through this book, which for me is unusual. I hope the next in the series is a little more enjoyable. I just couldn't enjoy these two, boring and mundane. Other characters, like Annie and Ian's grandfather were much more interesting. I wanted to read more about them
JoAnn Ross¿s first book of her Stewart sister trilogy is a unique blend of Scottish-American culture with historical facts and fantasy centered on the Brooch of Lorn, a historic jewel which has gone back and forth between the feuding Stewarts and the MacDougalls ever since it was ripped from Robert the Bruce's tartan in 1306. The main characters, Lily Stewart and Ian MacDougall MacKenzie, aren¿t looking for romance or commitment, but the attraction that sparks when Ian appears at the Stewart castle resort in the midst of a terrible storm will not be ignored. The castle, affectionately called Stewart¿s Folly, straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border of the Smoky Mountains and is home for the eclectic Stewart clan. In order to maintain the sprawling manor, the family sponsors the Highland Games on the castle grounds. Ian, under the guise of filming a documentary about the games, has really come to steal the brooch for the MacKenzie clan. Lily is the coordinator of the games. Lively sensual dialogue snaps back and forth between the two as each attends to his/her personal agenda. The twists and turns in their romance provide a fun read. The transitions between character history, brooch history, and storyline are a little awkward at times, but Ms Ross¿s superb and evocative word pictures paint the Scottish Highland games firmly in the reader¿s mind. The engaging personalities of her secondary characters add yet another level of charm to the book. Duncan MacDougall, the ornery Scotsman who sent his grandson to America to reclaim the brooch; Lily¿s father John Angus Stewart and his very young fiancée Jenny; zany, mystic Aunt Zelda; divorced Aunt Melanie and her bag piping daughter, Missy, and Lily¿s grandmother Annie are all quirky, captivating characters who draw you into the story. OUT OF THE MIST is a terrific combination of Ms Ross¿s distinct contemporary writing style and her story weaving gift. Her subtle, witty humor interspersed with all that Scottish history, firefly science and even the geological review of plate tectonics keeps you turning the pages. The snippets and hints of the coming stories of Lily¿s two sisters, Lark and Laurel, will have you eagerly awaiting the sister¿s stories.
I am a big fan of Ms. Ross but disappointed in her new book. tho I am of Scottish descent,I found there was much too much info re the ancestory of the book's characters. OTHEREWISE - a good storyline. And I will read Ms. Ross' books about Lark and Laurel.
I must speak with u rember me flameclaw go to znautor 11th reslut thanks - flameclaw
I am the protector of icesonething in birchclan bkrch first resul.
I am Flamclaws chosen guide.I must know...who are the other cats in his prophecy?
Yah youve got it right.
Lily ¿no talent¿ Stewart no longer looks forward to the upcoming Highland Games at her family¿s Great Smoky Mountain resort as she has in the past. She is concerned because Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Ian MacDougall MacKenzie is thinking of filming the event. His work is critically acclaimed, but extremely cynical, negative, and dark. A rain soaked Ian arrives at ¿Stewart¿s Folly¿ after walking a mile in a storm when his car rental failed. He and hotel hostess Lily are attracted from the first moment they see each other; shaking hands they emit enough electricity to light a city. Lily worries about the film that she believes will accentuate the negative. The truth is Ian is here to take back a seven-century-old broach his grandfather insists was stolen by the Stewarts decades ago. Although Ian and Lily act wary towards one another, they fall in love, but neither wants that at this time. OUT OF THE MIST is a fine contemporary romance that highlights the Scottish-American culture. The entire clan is fun to observe, but especially delightful is the lead couple and a geriatric duo. Fans of JoAnn Ross will enjoy this tale and take pleasure with the thought that two sisters remain for their tales to be told. Harriet Klausner